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24 Hour Cable News Show Hosts Don’t Kill People…

April 9, 2009

As much as I dislike the reporting on Fox News, I find this newest attempt to smear its rising star by the left-wing blogopshere a bit silly:

Just prior to the Pittsburgh massacre, Beck’s often bizarre on-air performances, in which his rants against the Obama administration’s dark forces were mixed in with his tearful proclamations of love of country, had turned him into a highly rated laughingstock. “That is a shaky cat,” Dennis Miller recently giggled while describing Beck. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough broke into hysterics after a montage of Beck’s most weepy moments. And TV satirists have had a field day at the Fox News host’s expense. (Stephen Colbert: “Crank up the crazy and rip off the knob!”)

But I’m not sure people should be laughing.

“There are a lot of people who hate liberals, and if we stir that around in the pot and on the airwaves, eventually there will be people (like Adkisson) … who get infected by the violent rhetoric and put it into violent action,” Bohstedt said.

He remained worried about future violence: “Do you think there are other Jim Adkissons out there listening to hate speech? I do.”

Me too.

from Media Matters For America

Infected by ideas?  Human beings aren’t porous entities incapable of separating the ideas and thoughts of others from their own ability to make decisions.  Certainly some people are more easily persuaded by paranoid ravings, but the solution and responsibility lies on the actor not the instigator.

In this case, Beck has admittedly said some outrageous, fact-devoid things on the air.  His dark view of the future is likely unhelpful to building the reconciliation and unity people in the political class say they want.

However, people like Richard Poplawski and Jim Adkisson are more than the sum of the television shows they’ve watched.  Normal people don’t just go out and shoot police officers because of the ‘messages’ they perceive TV personalities to be sending them.  I also very much doubt that Media Matters would like it if conservatives began blaming MSNBC for mass murder if the killer had bookmarks to Keith Olbmermann ‘special comments’ and a DailyKos web diary.  The evidence is circumstantial and intellectually dishonest.

Of course, this is not to say that Beck doesn’t totally deserve the heat he’s getting for this.  No less than a year ago, he jumped on the anti-Grand Theft Auto bandwagon, making some damning claims against what is now his own interest:

So CNN/Fox News doesn’t count as the mass media now?  If Beck thinks video games desensitize us to violence, don’t proclamations of the oncoming revolution and warnings about fascist takeovers of our liberties (oddly, silent during the Bush Administration) serve the same purpose, given the legitimacy of his format?

My solution here is not to shut Beck up, despite his hypocrisy.  Even if he’s just doing it for ratings, the better course of action is to actively try to reach out to and treat those susceptible to snapping and unleashing misdirected rage against innocents.

These people will inevitably find something to justify their actions from the standpoint of their warped realities, and thus stamping out every single idea that they could possibly latch onto is both fruitless and extremely insulting to the relatively well-adjusted people that make up the vast majority of the television viewing audience (though I have no statistics to back this last point up).

At best, Beck’s accusers are political opportunists, at worst, the equivalent of the authoritarian “OUR COUNTRY” types the left has railed against the past eight years, essentially acting to discredit political opposition on the airwaves.

Regardless, as a reactionary (though, I believe, sincere) conservative who believes pop culture is the root of society’s ills, Beck should know better.

On the other hand, he hasn’t really demonstrated the ability to be either consistent or even coherent thus far in his career.  Asking him to reconcile or even admit a contradiction in his conflicting personal defense of and attack on the mass media may be asking a bit much.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Rhett permalink
    April 10, 2009 3:35 am

    I like how he points out that the first-time-shooting accuracy rate for soldiers increased dramatically over the last 80 years in conjunction with “video games.”

    Isn’t that. . . good?

    PS I didn’t know that there was a chainsaw in GTA4. Fuck yes.

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